Category Archives: shopping

Fairfax City Craft Shows……..

Many of you might recall that I have a handmade stationery business called A Reason To Write and I used to participate in a ton of craft shows. But I remember way back in the beginning that it was overwhelming trying to figure out how to get in craft shows. It was hard to even find the listings of when/where they were.

So I wanted to share this link with anyone who might be crafty…..

http://www.fairfaxva.gov/SpecialEvents/VendorInformation.asp

This is the link for 3 shows that the City of Fairfax will host in 2012. The application process is outlined. These are fairly tough shows to get in because they are very well-attended and crafters travel from pretty far away to participate. So, take the application seriously. And make sure you have a picture of your display.

Make sure you pay attention to the application deadline – it is March 15th for all three shows.

I did not get in the first year I applied. I know, boo. But I am nothing if not persistent and so I tried again. The second time I included a letter in my application explaining why I had a unique handmade craft and why I should be included. 😎 It worked.

And for those who just want to shop, the craft show dates are…..

July 4th at the Independence Day Parade (outside in downtown Fairfax)
October 13th for the Fall Festival (outside in downtown Fairfax)
November 17th/18th at Fairfax High School for the Holiday Craft Show (held inside the high school)

Happy crafting and good luck!

Weight and Switch…………

Put your seatbelt on, I am about to turn everything you know about shopping upside down. No, really, I am. 😉

First, we have to remind ourselves why Costco and Sams and BJs and the like are successful. Because the more you buy, the cheaper it is. Right? Bigger is better. Correct?

Apparently not.

I should start by saying that I have not done price comparisons at the warehouse stores. That would be harder because they do not generally give you the price per unit. Well to be fair, I have never paid attention to the price per unit at the warehouse stores – mainly because generally there is only one size of each product/brand available. Super-sized. So it’s hard to compare when the stores don’t break down the math for you or give you options.

But recently I was at a store and I started looking at the per unit prices. Hmmmm. I went to pick up the larger bag of nuts because I just knew the price would be cheaper per ounce. But I didn’t really need such a large bag of nuts. Now we have a quandary. Hmmmm again.

Should I buy the larger bag and initially save money but then end up throwing some of the nuts out thus really wasting money.

I compared the per unit price and was shocked to see the smaller bag was actually less expensive per ounce. Say what?

The price for chopped pecans in the 8oz bag was 48 cents (well really 49 cents if you round up that ridiculous decimal .5).

And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear?

The price of the 10 oz bag is 59 cents per ounce. Huh?

Not being a math major, I double checked my numbers – and I am pretty sure that the larger bag is nearly 10 cents per ounce more expensive than the smaller bag. Boo. You can see it right there – the price of the 10 oz bag is $5.92 – the price of the 8 oz bag is $3.88. That is over a $2 difference for just 2 additional ounces – of chopped nuts, none the less. Those are the pieces that they probably just pick up at the end of the shift from the broken whole nuts. The leftovers. Yep, it’s nuts.

And then I found this.

This 24 oz bottle of Ranch dressing is $3.49. (And notice this store – cough – Target – cough – does not break down the price per ounce. Suspect.)

And so is this 20 oz bottle. Four ounces less but the same price. Really?

And then I realized why. This smaller (same priced) bottle is upside down. Clever, no?

But, even though I am not a scientist, I am fairly certain that if you employ gravity, you can get the same effect – and more dressing – for the same price. Hmmm.

No smoke and mirrors, no magic tricks – just a simple flick of the wrist can save you some dinero. Throw in a coupon and you might actually save enough money for that vacation.

So, pay attention savvy shoppers of the world. Not all is as it seems. 😎

Great Gifts………….

I am usually done by now – with Christmas shopping that is. Yep, I am one of those somewhat annoying organized people who used to make my own Christmas cards and have all my shopping pretty much done before Black Friday.

No More.

I am scrambling with the rest of the planet. Augh. Which is great because it’s 10 degrees here with the wind chill and the parking lots are full. I wish the economists would spend five minutes trying to find a parking spot at any mall in northern Virginia before they give their next economic outlook report. There’s a lot of spending going on.

Fortunately, at least our Christmas cards are sent out – I can say Christmas cards not holiday cards because I also sent out Hanukkah cards. So please don’t think I am insensitive. I bought all the cards at the store rather than making them (and not even a fancy card store) and forced allowed my youngest to help me put stamps on the envelopes.

And, woe is me, I hate giving gift cards because I think they are the easy way out. The perfect gift is out there for everyone – I just have to find it.

For my new writing gig at the Examiner.com, I wrote about the gift of forgiveness. And I am giving that this year too – hopefully I will be getting some too – but I also needs me a few things that fit under the tree and aren’t so symbolic.

This year I found a couple of things that I think are pretty cool – so I thought I would share them with you in case you are scrambling too.

The first one is for me. Yeah me! Yes, I am guilty of the “one for you, one for me” modus operandis of Christmas gift shopping.

It is this pitcher from Free Spirit Studio. I love this pitcher for a number of reasons. First of all it’s gorgeous! And the artist grows her own plants that she uses to embellish the pottery and  creates all of the pottery pieces herself.

I also love this piece because I know the artist. She is the mother of a very good friend of mine from junior high and high school. She even used to take me to craft shows with her when she was a vendor. My friend and I would spend the weekend “helping” and shopping. Mrs. Hooten definitely lit a creative spark in me.

The next one is from Uncommon Goods. It is a recycled windshield wine decanter from Colombia. Try saying that 5 times fast.

It’s tres cool because it is so uncommon (duh). Please know that this is not for your Waterford-preferring friends – it is tinted green (like a windshield might be to block out the sun) and it has bubbles and blemishes. It is also not for your friends who don’t prefer wine. Although – if they don’t prefer wine, you might want to seriously reconsider why they are your friends. 😉 It also has a little pocket to hold ice so that your wine stays cool but does not get watered down. Brilliant.

 

The only downside of these decanters is that they are kind of tallish. So they may not be great for someone with limited cabinet space. But if they drink enough wine, maybe they won’t notice that it’s kind of tallish. See, there is always an up side.

This next one is simple. Jewelry. Yeah! Jewelry doesn’t really require an explanation does it?

Just in case – it’s from Kohl’s and it’s called an inspiration bracelet. It is sterling silver and had the words “hope”, “peace”, “believe”, and “love” inscribed on the links. I am getting this for two of my dearest friends who have always encouraged me to hope, believe, and love. And they are a “peace” of me.

The last gift is for my Dad. He grew up in a teeny, tiny little town called Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The last time I was there only about 300 people lived in Fort Laramie. Even so, it has a rich history and someone took the time to write about it.

Please don’t think I am suggesting that a book about Fort Laramie would be perfect for anyone on your gift list – it’s just the idea of it. For those people who are hard to find a present for, a book about a place or time that is important to them might be just the gift that would make Santa proud.

So that’s it for now. Four down – four hundred to go. Wish me luck – I am off to find a parking space.

 

Why you don’t need a cook or a driver in America……..

When I first told people I was moving to India, they all wanted to know – “does that mean you will have people working for you?” And they said it with lust in their eyes. As if it was all rainbows and unicorn farts burps. If you don’t know why that could possible be NOT the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to you – please read here first and then maybe here and maybe even here. This blog post might actually be more interesting to my readers who have never been in the U.S. but, trust me, if you are all too familiar with the ways of the West, you might just be amazed at what we are all taking for granted. Trust me on this one – it’s not always the same, same every where.

I have always admitted that having staff made my life in India (much) easier – it was just a pain to have people always around you and sometimes stealing from you and blah blah blah. In fact, for the last five weeks of our lives in India, I did all the cooking and 90 percent of the shopping. People marveled at how I was going to manage it. Why would it be so tough to manage without a cook? Well, most of the shopping is done in markets and there are very few convenience foods. There is no “one-stop” shopping.

Today I went to a grocery store and Walmart and I marveled at just how many things we do not have to do in America.

First of all, some stores in the United States are open 24 hours a day. That is right – they never close. Can I get a hallelujah? In India, most markets don’t open until much later in the morning. And have I bored you to tears yet by telling you how many different places you have to go to get everything on your list? Shopping, cleaning the food, preparing the food, and cooking the food really can be an all-day event. And the foods don’t have a lot of preservatives – which is all sorts of loverly – but it also means you have to go to the market more often. See how tedious it all becomes? I know, I know, there are bigger problems in the world – but I am just sayin – shopping, cooking, and cleaning in India – harder than in the U.S.

So, I am in my car – driving myself – listening to the radio – windows down and I am reminded that the definition of traffic is not universal. Here is what I saw

Now this is not a side road – it is a well traveled thoroughfare and this is at 8:30am. Not necessarily the height of rush hour – but not in the middle of the night either. And, no, everyone is not simply running late today because no one was really behind me either. And I know I should not have been taking a picture – but give me a break – I used the rearview mirror – I had my eyes on the road the whole time! Pinky swear!

So, I pull into the road in front of the shopping plaza and see this sign.

Yes, you see that correctly – A) there is a sign telling you what’s here (what a marvel of modern technology) and B) all of these mega stores are within walking distance of each other.

There is a Target next to a Walmart (basically the same thing) and a BJs with everything that Walmart and Target sell, only in larger quantities. There is a shoe warehouse next to a Payless shoe store and a Toy Store right next to Target and Walmart (which both have enough toys in them for a large country). If you are from India and know about Spencers or Big Bazaar – think of that magnified 8,000 times. Bigger, bigger and better, better.

I know it reveals just how fancy I am not – but if I had to pick only one store to go to for the rest of my life – it would be Walmart – okay, a super Walmart – but a Walmart nonetheless. I heart this store! And, for my Indian readers – do you notice what is missing? Parking attendants and drivers waiting by the front? Oh yeah, and the occasional armed guard. That is because – everywhere in the U.S. there are parking lots. In India, mostly only the malls have parking lots. Hence the real benefit of having a driver. Here – no problemo – parking galore…

See all those empty spaces – you just pick the one you want and zip in – no one has to push a car out of the way for you or drive around the block while you shop. The down side of that is – guess what – you are carrying your own groceries. Just consider it exercise.

And inside these markets is a whole different shopping experience.

There are carrots that are already peeled and cleaned for you. Yummy.

Need a veggie tray? Done.

Need a fruit salad? Done.

Want lettuce? You can get it cleaned and shredded – ready to eat.

Oh, I am sorry – did you need dressing with that?

What’s that? You don’t like bottled dressings? Okay – make your own – here is a starter kit.

Would you like some cheese with that? Shredded perhaps? Remember how our parents used to tell us that they had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways? I now lament with my children the olden days gone by when I had to shred my own cheese. And slice it too. And there sure as heck wasn’t any colby/cheddar on those grocery store racks. Oh, the hardships of childhood.

Oh, your child has tactile issues and prefers sliced cheese? No worries, we’ve got that…

Your mother-in-law prefers cubes – it doesn’t matter if she says that just to make you crazy – it’s all good, we’ve got that too…

And just in case no one is happy with the above choices, let’s throw in some cheese sticks.

And yes, you saw the labels correctly – those are all some form of cheddar cheese – but some like it shredded some like it not.

The cereal aisle can quickly earn you a seasons pass straight to the looney bin. Frosted or not. Fiber or not. Crunchberries or not. Sugar free or high octane. It’s amazing we ever get out of the store.

And even when our carts are full of things we can cook, we still have the option of not preparing our own food. Close your eyes on this first one if you are vegetarian.

We don’t even have to put cheese and crackers together ourselves. They even add a drink.

And if opening a box just seems too daunting at the end of the day – there’s this – we don’t even have to make a sandwich. It’s been done.

Those were frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The first time I saw them, I was outraged that we have become so lazy that we can’t even make our own sandwiches. Now, I own stock in the company. They are frozen so you do have to plan ahead and let them thaw out for a whole 15 minutes. Patience Grasshopper. Either that or tell your kids they are a popsicle  and cross dessert off the list as well.

Need a drink? Which one? Beer?

Wine?

I included this picture just to show you that Gallo wine really does not cost almost $30 a bottle. Remember that?

And to top it all off, you can even buy your apples already sliced.

You would think with us doing all of our own cooking, shopping, and driving that we would run out of time to do anything else. Not true. This woman still had time to decorate her car with silk flowers. Who says Americans don’t have their priorities in order?

To be very fair to this person, though, this car is a Honda and finding a Honda – your Honda – in the midst of a Walmart parking lot without the aid of a driver is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. She probably did this to make it easier to find her car and to ensure that other moms (or anyone else for that matter) wouldn’t go anywhere near it. She clearly does not have teenagers yet. They would never stand for this degree of lunacy.

So, that is why we don’t need drivers and cooks – we have parking lots and shredded cheese.

Housekeepers, on the other hand, are another story altogether. I cannot imagine a land or a time or a dream where they don’t make perfect sense. 😉

Cheeseburger in Paradise…………

I have been very guilty of not exactly embracing the cuisine of India. Some of it I really like but most of it I honestly just haven’t tried. Alas, I am one of those people who will go to a restaurant I have been to 12 times, read the menu cover to cover, and order the same exact thing I had the last 12 times I was there. And enjoy every bite of it, by the way.

One of the things I really miss from home is the food I know and love. Most of it isn’t that healthy – that is why tastes so good! But all of it is recognizable and I am a horrible creature of habit who thrives in the predictable.

So when we were in Beijing and I saw “cheeseburger” on the menu of a western hotel, I had to read it twice just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. I had to consider the religious implications in Beijing and mull over the possibility that this “cheeseburger” might be a real, recognizable “cheeseburger”. Be still my stomach.

And oh man, it was so good that I ordered it two nights in a row. With a glass of American white wine. Sweet.

The kids enjoyed hot dogs – yep, both nights – they said they were even better than 7-11 hot dogs. They ate them so quickly that I did not get a picture of them.

I know it is at least shameful and probably verging on criminal that we did not partake of the local foods available. But at least we did not eat here.

Who would have thought that there would be a Hooters in Beijing? Not I – that is for sure.

But I did take some pictures of some food at a market just so you would not totally miss out. It’s really nice how they labeled almost everything – and in English none the less.

Those who were eating the market food seemed to really enjoy it. Maybe next time.

Gujarat Haveli…………..

Most people who live in a foreign country want to take something special from that country back home with them to remind them of their experiences. Furniture seems a good choice because it’s also practical – of course I am also a big advocate of the impractical bejeweled souvenir as well. But I digress. Lots of our friends in Delhi have told me about the Gujarat Haveli and we finally made it out there. Holy home furnishings batman! Just on the FYI side of things Gujarat is a region in India and Haveli loosely means (very) lovely place to live and trade.

This place was amazing. It reminded me of antique stores (barns) in the U.S. but with way cooler stuff! I have absolutely nowhere to put something like this horse- but I love, love, love him. He loves me too – I just know it.

This table has brass elephants on the side.

Beautiful pots.

More beautiful pots. The one on the left is made of iron with leather braiding. The one on the right is wooden with brass trimming.

These are dowry chests. The brides family would fill these up with prezzies and they would be rolled with the wedding procession to the groom’s house. My youngest daughter had a hard time understanding all of it until I told her not to worry. She will surely marry someone who will be giving her gifts and if he needs a chest this big to fit them all in – so be it. 😉

He might just have to come home with me one day.

Either him or one of his cousins.

Most of these are the bottoms of Hookah pipes. The ones on either end reminded me of spittoons from the wild west days but the shop keeper told me they were for water. He said that at night you fill it with water then in the morning you drink it. You leave it over night so you get the benefit of the all the minerals in the metals. Not exactly the same, same as a spittoon.

Tres cool statues.

I would not sleep at night if this guy lived in my house.

Oh, the fabulous finds just went on and on.

This chair is for the boy, the girl, and the chaperon. But it would also be great for a game of duck duck goose.

This is a coffee table made out of an old door. Magnificent!

An old swing that doesn’t have to involve a chaperon. Must be for a married couple.

There were a lot of painted things. They aren’t my fave just because I am too practical and I cannot imagine trying to fit these into a room with other things.

And you know how I love my bells! Ding ding!

We left without buying anything – because there is also Sharma Farms that I have heard we should see – but clearly we have lots to discuss. I’ll let you know how it goes. Yes, you should start feeling sorry for number one hubby right about n.o.w.

P.S. I have gotten a few emails asking for the address (I had a super hard time finding it too) so for those of you who are local – here it is….
Gujarat Haveli
Mobile 98100 66925 (you need an appointment)
43 KM Stone Delhi
Jaipur Expressway, N.H.-8
Gurgaon, Haryana
email: kutch@ndf.vsnl.net.in
(I will leave it to them to give you directions – I might get you lost. 😉 )

Beijing – Olympic Park and Panda Bears………

While we were in Beijing, we wanted to see Olympic Park. This was an interesting thing to accomplish.

I don’t know if all tours are run like this in China or if we just got some bad tour mojo….. but …. yikes. Our travel agent planned an itinerary for our day and a half in Beijing. We asked to go to the Great Wall – the section that you walk up and luge down. That did not happen. We went to the wall and walked up but we also had to walk down. That was a big bummer!

He also coordinated visits for us to see the Summer Palace and Ming’s Tomb. I ask you – why would we go to stuffy ole Ming’s tomb when we could see where Michael Phelps made history? Duh? And why would we go to the Summer Palace when we could see the Panda bears. I mean, really. Honestly, if we would have had more time, we would have so gone to Ming’s Tomb and the Summer Palace but time was short and we were traveling with three younguns who love to swim – so priorities, right?

When we got on the tour mobile, we asked to make some changes to our original schedule. OOOOOOOppppps. Apparently that is not acceptable – well, it can be acceptable if you are willing to pay more. Huh? We wanted to change two sites for two other sites. In America, we call that a “no-brainer” – in China it is apparently called an “increase in fees”. Got it.

We were also told that we were going to be charged more money because we were not going shopping. You read that right – n.o.t. going shopping. Huh? We did not ask to go shopping. And, shopping was not on our original schedule. But, now we were going to pay to not shop. Hmmmmmm.

Oh, and our tour guide was happy to take us by an ATM machine so we could pay in cash. Yeah, how do you think that worked out for her?

So, very long, very frustrating story short – we made the changes and only had to pay extra for the zoo fees. Now, that makes more sense.  And hubby had sense enough to suggest insist that our travel agent in Delhi be billed by our guide’s travel agency directly in Beijing – no cash transactions, thank you very much. So nice of you to offer though. tee hee. (Now you know I did not just marry hubby for his good looks.)

We quickly put it all behind us and walked in awe through Olympic Park. It is a pretty cool place. Most of the signage in China is in, well, Chinese – so it was fun to see this sign that we could actually read.

The bird’s nest was huge and fabulous…

And then, of course, the water cube. Unfortunately it was not open – but we used our imagination. 😉 I could easily imagine Bear, Flower, and Angel diving off the same block that Michael Phelps used. Can’t you?

And the fun mascots…

And how can you go to Olympic Park and not take a picture of the rings? You can’t, right?

There were some pretty awesome statues throughout the park. And if you stand at angle with the sun in your eyes and lean to the left and lift one foot up, this guy absolutely resembles Michael Phelps.

Her, not so much…

Not too sure what this symbolizes – but it looked cool enough…

Maybe he was trying to envision the swimming statue as Michael Phelps, too? What? He could be. Or, maybe, it’s just hard to hold a sailboat with no arms.

The sign wasn’t much help either…

Sure, it’s nice information to know, but it didn’t so much help on the interpretation side of things.

Travel in China is different than what we have experienced in the rest of Asia. Truly, not many of the people we encountered spoke English. This lady and her sister were so kind to help hubby negotiate with a vendor for a better price on the stuffed mascots. If you plan to visit China, learn from our mistakes, you’ll want to know this about shopping with vendors in Beijing (and perhaps all of China). It is wise to have money in smaller denominations. Otherwise the vendors are likely to give you counterfeit bills as change. Wanna know how we know that? Go ahead. Take a guess.

We tried to buy her sister a set of mascots too but the only thanks she wanted was a picture with our family.

Next, we headed over to the zoo. Fun Fun. We have seen a panda or two at the zoo in Washington, DC, but the Beijing zoo has at least a dozen of them. And here was another sign we could read.

And these guys were fabuloso!


The pandas also had this wonderful playground.

But this guy was just too tired to play. So cute!

Anybear, we did have a wonderful afternoon and hope to go back some time and see more of the historical stuff.

Pick a card, any card………..

There are so many “different ways of doing business” that you must navigate when you move somewhere new. One of the things that I did not realize I would miss about the United States was the ease of getting phone numbers or addresses or just information in general.

There is no directory assistance here. (Well there might be – but it is a well kept secret.) If you want a phone number, you have to know someone who knows the phone number. It is really crazy. I am yet to see a telephone book (except for the school’s directory – God love them). But what we all do have is a flippin’ stack of business cards. Literally hundreds of them. Everywhere you go, you get a business card. And you are hesitant to get rid of them – because you just might want to call that vendor one day. And when you do want to call a vendor, good luck figuring out which card is who.

And the internet is not always that helpful. Many of us have shared our frustrations of trying to find a business or address on the internet – you can literally get lost for hours in the land of nothingness.

Heck, most stores still calculate the bill by handwriting it and then doing the math manually – then rechecking the math with a calculator. So the fact that they don’t have a web presence really is not surprising.

Just the other day, I asked our cook to order some groceries to be delivered (yes, that is back when I had a cook). I knew that he was rewriting receipts so I did not want him to go himself. But the market delivers and then I pay the bill. Fabulous.

Now, just so you fully understand – this is the same market that we have been shopping at ever since Francis started working for us – 7 months ago. And they have delivered groceries many, many times to our house.

So a whole day goes by and no groceries come.

The next morning, we have this conversation…

Francis: Ma’am, I could not order groceries.
Me: Okay, why?
Francis:  I don’t have the number.
Me: Of the shop we have been ordering groceries from for months?
Francis: Yes Ma’am. But I have the number of his brother’s shop.
Me: Can you call his brother and get the number?
Francis: I tried. No one is answering.
Me: So, you really don’t know the number? That you have been calling for 7 months?
Francis: No Ma’am.
Me:
Really?
Francis: Yes, Ma’am
Me: I’ll get it for you.

So, I went into the pantry where we have about 15 canvas bags (all of which Francis put away) from this market shop. Each bag has the address, phone number, and name of the store printed in l.a.r.g.e. type right on the bag.

Francis: Oh, thank you ma’am. (awkward laughing)
Me: Make sure you get their card.

Buyer Beware…….

You might remember that I had two friends come visit from the United States in February. We had an amazing time and traveled through quite a bit of India. One of the places we visited was Jaipur. One of the things you are “supposed” to do when you visit Jaipur is go jewelry shopping.

So, we went to the historical sites first – then on the the sparkly stuff. We eeeew’d and awwww’d and tried on lots of fabulous jewelry. We joked how marvelous we would look in this piece or that piece. We tried on necklaces that cost more than a car and we laughed.

We also bought some jewelry. Yep, you know exactly where this is going. Downhill fast.

I want to be careful here not to say that we were not completely swindled. We were taken advantage of – no doubt. But to be honest, my friends trusted me to take them to a reputable place and then we all trusted that we weren’t totally being taken. When we handed over our credit cards, we did it willingly and after negotiating much better prices than we were originally quoted. We even got some free gifts – and yes, that should have been our very first of several warning signs.

The jeweler we met was charming and I am sure he saw us coming a kilometer away – we looked just like tourists straight off the elephant ride and I am sure he smelt rupees. He was patient and explained everything to us. He joked with us and, oddly enough, it turns out  he way over charged us. And like I said, we were happy to pay him because we foolishly trusted him.

Our first mistake was listening to me. I trusted someone with a jewelry referral who has done well by me in the past. But I should have gotten several names and we should have absolutely gone to more than one shop. And my friends and I don’t k.n.o.w. jewelry. Sure we know what we like and we know our price (breaking) points – but we didn’t really understand how the two coincided. That is what we call a big fat recipe for disaster.

So we bought jewelry. And a decent amount of it.

In fact, this ring was so fab that I decided to bring it home. I planned to wait on the bracelet and get it for a special occasion – perhaps my funeral when my hubby learned the full details of the story or my friends realized how badly I misdirected them.

I know, it is pretty, huh?

When we returned to Delhi and spread out our sparklees, my friend noticed that the ring she bought for her daughter was slightly off center. So, we called our guy. No problem. He had a friend traveling to Jaipur the next day and we could just give it to him and the jeweler would fix it and, yes, he would make sure we got it back in time for my friend to return to America with it in hand. Just as charming as we remembered. Promises, promises.

We were slightly concerned about giving this total stranger a pretty expensive ring and were having a hard time believing that it would actually end up at the jeweler in Jaipur. But we were armed with the knowledge that we paid with credit cards and had some protection. That turned out to be about the only thing we did right – pay with credit cards.

That same night we went to a party. My friend was standing with her new bracelet on her arm and it simply broke in 3 places. Nope, she didn’t bang it against a wall – and no, a kid on a skateboard didn’t rip it off her arm while scooting by – and no,  monkeys didn’t fly out of the sky and try to steal it – it just simply fell to the ground in 3 places. She had been wearing it for all of two hours.

That was also not a good sign.

So I called the jeweler and explained that we were not happy. No problem. He would gladly fix it. We asked what would happen if my friend wanted to simply return the bracelet – now that we are none too sure about the quality. We were starting to second guess ourselves about 2 days too late. “Oh,” he said, “that would take about 15 days.” When we explained that was not the right answer because my friend was leaving in less than a week, he simply replied, “that is how it works here. Fifteen days. Or I could bring you cash.”

Holy sapphire Batman.

I had never purchased a large item on a credit card in India and I had not returned anything. So, I didn’t know if this guy was pulling a (nother) fast one or if that was just the way it worked.

There is a jeweler that a lot of expats use in Delhi and I suggested we give him a visit. While there, we asked about the value of our remaining items. The Delhi jeweler (who is well known and well trusted) said that some of the pieces we had he would not even buy – no matter how low the price. It turns out they were hollow and not solid gold/silver pieces – that apparently lowers the value s.i.g.n.i.f.i.c.a.n.t.l.y. hmpf.

So, just for giggles, we asked him to tell us what he would have paid, if he had been so foolish to buy them. None of the pieces appraised at even fifty percent of what we paid.

Yep, I know there is a double sided game going on – if we return the jewelry to jeweler A, we might just have some rupees to spend at jeweler B. But the appraisals were so far off from the prices that we paid. We felt sick to our stomachs and really angry. And of course, I felt the worst of all.

We also asked the Delhi jeweler what would happen if we paid by credit card and decided to return something. That part of the story actually checked out. It appears that it takes about 2 weeks in India to get a credit back on a return. Yikes. Yeah that would have been good to know as well.

(Just a side note – This makes jewelry shopping in India pretty fun though – because the jewelers will let you take pieces home and think about them without paying for them yet. They don’t like dealing with the hassle of returns, so they want you to be sure you like it. And even if a few months after purchasing something, you decide it’s not for you, you can just bring it back and exchange it.)

We left the Delhi jeweler after learning lots and trying on more fun stuff – shhh, don’t tell hubby that part. And we called the Jaipur jeweler. I firmly explained that this was no way to do business with Americans and that I would truly understand if the items were valued 20 or even 30 percent less what we paid – after all, prices are somewhat subjective. But, one piece appraised at 10 percent of what my friend paid. I was shaking. I was furious. And I told him so.

He tried to explain that the price of jewelry is in the eye of the beholder and I further explained that the eyes of these beholders were steaming mad. He (wisely) offered to bring cash to Delhi the next day and pick up the jewelry. Excuse me? You will do what? Okay then. So we set up a time and crossed our ever-loving, ring-encrusted fingers. We laughed that if he offered to reduce the price, we might just keep the jewelry. We did love it after all.

Hubby – ever the pessimist – could not believe that this guy was really going to show up. Now it’s a funny story – but then – hubby was none too amused. My friends had the luxury of having their husbands in the U.S . – 8,000 miles away – and not knowing all the details. Me, I had Mr. Pessimist in all his glory. Not that he didn’t have reason to be doubtful. It didn’t sound or look good.

But half an hour early – God Bless him – that jeweler pulled up in front of the house. He had American $100 bills and he returned our money and took the jewelry back with him. He did not even offer to reduce the prices. I think it was fair to say that he was as done with us as we were with him. It was a pleasant enough exchange that ended with us both agreeing that we simply weren’t meant to do business together.

After he walked out the door and we all started breathing again, my friend looked up and said, “any chance these are counterfeit”?

“Only one way to find out,” I said and we marched ourselves right back to the jeweler in Delhi and bought some replacement pieces.

I guess it really is hard to teach an old mom new tricks. 😉

Sufficient………….

Living away from home has been wearing on me these past few days. And today I decided to pick myself up by the purse strings and do some retail therapy. I have a lot on my list that I want to do before we go home for the summer and the weeks are closing in on me fast. So, rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I should give a little of myself to others and do the charity work that I do best – shopping.

I went and got a few of these beautiful boxes made from broken bangles. Yep, they are nice, aren’t they? Nope, they did not have enough for me to get everyone a box. So sorry.

And then I went to Sundar Nagar. I had heard about it. I had read about it – one of my real life-slash- blogging friends wrote this about it and I was reminded why it was on my list of places to give back shop.  I am not sure why I had not made it over that way but I had not shopped there yet. Big. Mistake. What. Have. I. Been. Waiting. For?

My favorite thing was this bowl ‘o bells. I dunno why – but I have always loved bells. Maybe we lived near a church when my mom was pregnant with me. Each one of these has a different sound. Fantastic.

So I brought a few home. I can just imagine myself standing on my front porch in the U.S. ringing one of these bells to call my kids home for supper all June Cleaver-like. Ding ding ding – sweet children get your arses in here it’s dinner time. They will bring a whole new meaning to ringing in the New Year.

And I saw all of these gorgeous lanterns that you could probably very easily find in an Anthropologie catalog near you for at least 4 times the price.

And I saw these boxes too. Number One Hubby and I have an anniversary coming up very soon and I think 18 years of marriage (and a move to India) warrants these boxes appearing under wrapping paper in my hands very soon. Although I might hold out for something a little more sparkly,  that I did not pick out myself, and that can be more easily transported on a finger or a wrist. As of the writing of this post, my husband has his heart set on getting me a street puppy – which is neither easily transportable nor sparkly and is quite possibly the very last thing I would ever want. We’ll see how this plays out. I will be sure to let you know.

There are two shops right next to each other in the corner of Sundar Nagar. The shopkeeper of the first store gave me this guy when I was done overpaying for my items. He told me it was a gift to wish me good luck – but actually it probably is more of a celebration of his good luck in finding  me as a customer. 😉

And then I met this man- Fateh Singh – in the second shop I went into. (His shop actually had the bells).

I ended up sitting and talking with him for a very long time. His perspective on life was refreshing and I really needed a “what are you complaining about” kick in the bee-u-tee-tee. (That is “butt”.) He told me many stories – a few of which I will share in later blog posts. But the conversation that hit home the most was a twist on the good old “glass half full/glass half empty” trick question.

By way of history, there is a standing joke in our house about my husband’s answer to that question. So he immediately caught my attention when he brought this up. I joke that hubby won’t even discuss if the glass is half full or half empty until you prove to him, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is actually water in the glass. Hubby loves to play devil’s advocate – but that is another blog post entirely.

Anybowl, Fateh was demonstrating the singing bowls for me. I asked him if you were supposed to fill them with water. So, he demonstrated an empty bowl first, then filled it with water and made it sing again.

Then he said
Fateh: Let me ask you one question. Is this bowl half full or half empty?
Me: (I was so excited that I knew the “right” answer that I nearly fell out of my chair trying to raise my hand.) Well, of course, it is half full. Right?
Fateh: To say that it is half full means that it is also half empty. Why can it not simply be sufficiently full?
Me: Hmmmmmm

Now, if you are not a big fan of the Chicken Soup for Soul feel good philosophy, the significance of this might be quickly lost. But I as I sat with him, I realized that my perspective of my last few days was not helping me out one tiny little bit. There have been some stumbling blocks for sure – I miss my family and U.S. friends, we are almost out of American cheese slices, it’s hot as hell here, almost everyone who works in my house is a pain in the arse in one way or another, I am not getting much sleep, there is more of me when I really, really wanted there to be less of me, and yet I have all I need (and frankly more than I need in every respect except patience).

Sufficient is good. And I plan to start embracing it.

So remember, there is no price too high to pay for mental health -even when retail therapy is called for – sometimes shopping is the best medicine. Because when you help yourself, others will help you too. I went out looking for a simple distraction today and found a little peace of mind (and some great bells and bowls – cha ching!).